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Posted May 6, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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SU graduate gets Tony nomination for Broadway role

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Spencer appears in "Next to Normal"

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Shenandoah University graduate J. Robert "Bobby" Spencer knows a nod for a Tony Award is anything but normal.

But on Tuesday, Spencer received a nomination for best performance by a leading actor in a musical, according to the Tony Awards Web site. Awards will be presented June 7.

In "Next to Normal," now playing on Broadway, Spencer plays Dan, a husband and father coping with his wife's bipolar illness, according to the actor's Web site, www.bobbyspencer.com.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Spencer called the nomination "amazing."

Spencer also will return Sunday to his alma mater to speak at its graduation and receive an honorary doctorate in fine arts.

"I've worked so hard and I've worked so long," Spencer said. "I've paid my dues and I'm so blessed right now and the blessings are coming because of all the hard work."

"Next to Normal" received 11 Tony nominations -- best musical, best book of a musical, best original score written for the theater, best performance by a leading actress in a musical, best performance by a featured actress in a musical, best direction in a musical, best orchestrations, and awards for scenic, lighting and sound design.

The cast and crew suspected the musical would receive some nominations.

"We knew that this show was special and different and unique and beautiful and challenging and triumphant," Spencer said. "All of our wishes, all of our faith completely came true today."

Tom Kitt created the music and Brian Yorkey wrote the book and lyrics for "Next to Normal." The musical is directed by Michael Greif. The play opened off Broadway at Second Stage Theatre in February 2008. It was then produced by Arena Stage before its move to Broadway, according to the award Web site.

Spencer has played in Broadway productions of "Cats," "Tommy" and "Romeo and Juliet." His breakout role came in "Jersey Boys," in which he played the original Nick Massi.

The current play "is amazing to me because I'm one of the leads and I have a much more emotional journey that I'm allowed to take as an artist, and my character has a lot more depth that I get to play with," Spencer said.

Spencer noted that it's rare for Broadway actors to go from one hit production to another. Most stay with a hit show until it runs its course.

Spencer, 40, graduated cum laude from Shenandoah Conservatory's musical theater program with a bachelor of fine arts in 1991. He and his wife, Jenny Lynn Spencer, have two children.

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